Thriving vs. Surviving
Arianna Huffington’s new book, Thrive, and Dan Harris’s 10% Happier have created a growing interest in meditation and the way of life it encourages. As a result, the financially obsessed definition of success is changing. Don’t get me wrong, they are not suggesting that there is something wrong with having money, making money or even wanting money, but when your life’s happiness or level of success is solely defined by how much money you have or make, that’s when you could be putting unnecessary pressure on yourself that begets discontent.
My older daughter constantly calls herself a “struggling actress.” She lives in the Big Apple, working her butt off in various jobs so she can pay for her ridiculously expensive, but tiny apartment while spending her days chasing a dream that sometimes feels beyond reach. She’s called me crying about being “rejected,” cast aside to watch someone else step into her dream role. She describes her heartbreak as only an actress can, compounding her anxiety with the realization that her job as nanny is becoming more and more permanent. She then rebuilds herself from a tortured position of worry that she is a disappointment to her father and me, and a failure to herself.
This got me thinking about people in general and the shame we feel when we’re not living the life we dreamt of having as a kid. Or perhaps we ARE living the life we dreamt of having, but now that we’ve arrived, the pressure of our materialistic society makes us question our accomplishments, as if it isn’t good enough. Truth be told, my daughter isn’t failing, and is nowhere near the place she was in her career three years ago when she graduated from the acting conservatory. Today she lives with her boyfriend whom she loves. She has a family who loves and supports her, a balanced spiritual life to nurture her anxiety, and a head over heals love for what it is that she’s pursuing. However, what good is all this success if she’s not celebrating it? Instead, she’s focusing on one aspect of her daily life, which distracts her from celebrating her achievements so that she can attract more achievements. She’s stuck in the old mindset of success—which is all about money—whereas the new mindset is all about life!
Today’s younger generation of men and women populate the work force together. They now take maternity leave together, raise their kids together, and have career pursuits and goals which they’re passionate about. Believe it or not, the world is more balanced than it once was, which is not to say that it can’t be better. A woman’s world is no longer at home and a man’s world is no longer at work; we’re balancing, so that both sexes can decide where it is that they’d like to put their energy without predetermined societal norms. This also means that our definition of success is rebalancing. Our youth are beginning to redefine a successful life as meaning “living” as opposed to the digits of their bank account balance.
Sorry, I don’t mean to confuse you. This statement can be confusing since one normally needs money to live comfortably, and it’s easy to not care about money when you have it or receive it from your parents or friends who help out. What I am saying is that the standards for success in the new paradigm are measured differently, whether you have money or not. Today, you are successful if:
- 1) You celebrate other people’s success. You want the best for your friends or loved ones and look to share their joy and celebrate their happiness and success.
- 2) You have love and you express your love. Whether that love is given to a dog, a spouse, a child, a friend or a plant…it’s something you don’t take for granted and you cherish often. You’re not afraid to love deeply and be loved in return.
- 3) Your life is about growth. Previous failures have not debilitated you. You learn from your mistakes and recognize that there is always a lesson to be learned and applied to the next go around.
- 4) You have goals and dreams that you pursue. While pursuing those dreams, the steps taken are not seen as hardships, but opportunities to help you develop into the person who can receive that dream.
- 5) You are not afraid to stand up for yourself. You value your self worth and do not let people walk over you.
- 6) You offer a helping hand without looking for something in return. You enjoy being “a rainbow in someone else’s cloud” (to use the late Maya Angelou’s words) and are generous with your time and resources when you can be.
- 7) You want to be part of the movement to spread good energy. We all know misery loves company, and so does joy! Spread joy and receive it in spades.
- 8) You have eliminated the toxicity in your life by showing compassion instead of contempt.
- 9) You’re not afraid to ask for help and support, nor are you afraid to give it.
- 10) Your home is a place where you are nurtured.
- 11) You can let go of things. You can forgive people. You can move on.
- 12) You’re choosing positive thoughts and actively quieting your inner critic.
- 13) You can accept compliments.
- 14) You have goals that have come true.
- 15) You feel connected and enjoy your work. You understand your chosen path, are grateful for the opportunities, and you will continue along this path until it no longer serves you and your well-being.
- 16) Most importantly, you love yourself.
I, too, am a work in progress, and don’t take any successes for granted. Living a successful life according to the new paradigm takes work. The good news is that there is not a lot to change except our thoughts.
Success is within reach for all of us. If you ask me, we’re thriving folks. Let’s celebrate.
-Germaine Parra Avila